Contemporary U.S. Literature, Historical Fiction

The Paris Apartment

May 13, 2022

After a semester so busy with literature courses that I had no time to read anything just for fun, I am finally back! For the record, The Paris Apartment is the title of several novels, and this may not be the best one. Despite my skepticism about books of this niche sub-genre (women-authored historical romance fiction about WWII), this was surprisingly enjoyable. The pleasure I took in this book might have something to do with the novels I’ve been teaching all semester: OroonokoRobinson CrusoeFrankensteinDavid CopperfieldNever Let Me GoDraculaMrs. DallowayThe Great Gatsby, and Things Fall Apart. These are all canonical “Great Works” of literature–all important to literary history, gorgeously crafted, etc. Like, I wouldn’t be an English professor if I wasn’t peddling these books with great enthusiasm–and I was! But it was a relief to read something entirely plot-driven with lots of pathos and silly descriptions, e.g.:

She was wearing a dress the color of a crimson rose at dusk, her hair a curtain of rich chestnut shot through with gold. Her skin was sun-kissed, her extraordinary eyes almost a moss green in the low light. She had a small beaded clutch tucked under one arm and an empty champagne glass in her hand, her fingers toying absently with the ever-present pendant at her throat, as though deep in thought.

I spent a minute considering what color is a crimson rose at dusk, like muddy brown? And–this is a character we have followed for 375 pages: why only now do we get the color of her hair and skin? Why must her eyes be extraordinary? Is there any other way that fingers could toy with a pendant? And why is she not truly deep in thought–has she drunk too much champagne?

The book kind of reminded me of a silly grown-ass lady romance version of a truly superior novel about girl spies during WWII, Elizabeth Wein’s jaw-droppingly plotted and characterized Code Name Verity. If you don’t prefer Kristin Hannah et al, I’d strongly recommend this book!

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